We’ve all been there. You get to the farmers market and it’s so beautiful and inspiring and you want this and that and the other. Everything is so gorgeous… but where do you start??
I collabed with Quiddity on a short video on how to shop the farmers market. Here’s my shopping strategy, and how I use my market haul to make a dish.
Though farmers markets can be a little overwhelming at first, remember that seasonal, local cooking is actually quite easy. If they grow together, they go together. Chances are, crops that come into season around the same time will naturally pair with one another on the plate.
Secondly, the ingredients are so good, you don’t need to do much. The best way to honor your ingredients is to prepare simply and then get out of the way.
And that’s what I did with my spring radish salad with aged Havarti, creamy horseradish dressing, and cru-tons. I left the beautiful lettuces and cheese as-is. I left the bread unadorned and untoasted so you can fully appreciate the texture (and use it to sop up the dressing).
Because this dish was an ode to radish, I showcased it in three different preparations: raw, roasted, and pickled. Roasting brings out the radish’s sweetness and earthiness. Pickling draws out the spiciness. And raw is like the flawless no-makeup selfie — the radish is naturally beautiful thankyouverymuch.
Finally, I made a simple dressing that amplified and unified the flavors already in the salad. This horseradish dressing is creamy (to give heft to the leaves and unify them with the heartier radishes, cheese, and bread), sweet (to balance out the bitterness of the radishes and greens), and spicy (to alert our tastebuds to the subtle spiciness of the spring radish).
You might be tempted to eat this salad with your hands, savoring each ingredient one by one. Do it! That’d be the ultimate way of honoring these great spring offerings.
CREAMY HORSERADISH DRESSING
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup kefir yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
2-4 tablespoons prepared horseradish (depending on how potent your horseradish is)
1 ½ teaspoons honey
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Whisk all ingredients together and drizzle onto salad just before serving.
I make this salad all year round. Take some English cucumbers, slice them up with a mandolin, or a spiralizer, or even (!) a knife. Salt them to release their moisture. Sometimes I'll cut into matchsticks. Or sometimes, I'll add soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Other times, yogurt.
But for summer, I'm of the opinion less is more. Just the extra crunch and water of fennel. A touch of dill. And few grinds of pepper. This is great as a condiment (on your burger, say), or just on its own. So easy and good.
RECIPE: Mandolin one long English cucumber and one bulb of fennel. Salt liberally with 1 1/2 tablespoons of table salt. Let sit for 15 minutes, then squeeze out all water. Dress with 3 tablespoons of white vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil, and dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2-3.
But first, a poem.
The birds were louder this morning,
raucous, oblivious, tweeting their teensy bird-brains out.
It scared me, until I remembered it’s Spring.
How do they know it? A stupid question.
Thank you, birdies. I had forgotten how promise feels.
My friend who recently moved from NYC to SF told me she's now cooking more.
"Finally, the recipes I cook turn out well!" she says.
It wasn't that her skills improved. Or that she tried different recipes. The reason, she says, is that there's better produce on the West Coast. She can make a simple tomato salad, sautéed green beans, the most barebones recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi -- they all turn out great.
As much as I want to defend NYC farmer's markets, she's probably right -- most of the year. Come spring, it's a different story and one can go wild at the abundance.
This isn't a recipe as much as it is a shopping prompt. If you've got it it, roast it.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Prep vegetables, toss with olive oil, and roast them individually in their own trays (as opposed to all at once, as the photo implies). Veggies at the size shown will roast in 12-15 minutes. Sprinkle with Maldon salt.
Shown: Asparagus, radishes, spring onions, potatoes, fennel, radicchio.
Or, in praise of the mushy vegetable.
It's not in vogue to eat mushy vegetables. They must be crispy and seared. Fried or pickled. They must snap, appear vibrant green rather than murky olive. But, can we admit that mushy vegetables are kinda good?
I'm talking good in an nostalgic way, sure. The way mushy green beans taste like your summer camp in the Catskills. Or how mushy, underseasoned peas take you to the time you licked your baby brother's spoon clean.
But also good in an objective way. Cruciferous vegetables are unequivocally stinky when they're cook to oblivion -- but isn't that the whole point? Sauerkraut, boiled cabbage, collard greens and ham hocks. All overcooked, the opposite of al dente, all delicious.
Leave it to April Bloomfield to take the cliché of the greenish-gray British veg and turn it into something delicious. This recipe is adapted from her excellent new cookbook, A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden.
I made one modification out of necessity. I was cooking for vegetarians and someone allergic to fish, so anchovies were out of the question. In went capers, lentils, and some caramelized onions to give this some brine and body. I served this as the main course -- like a whole roast chicken and leg of lamb -- and carved it tableside. No knife needed though. The cauliflower was soft and I used a serving spoon.
(adapted from April Bloomfield's A Girl and her Greens )
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Trim and core cauliflower. Heat olive oil in a cast-iron pot (I used a 7-quart Le Creuset) and sear the cauliflower on all sides. Remove cauliflower and add 3 diced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons of capers, and 3/4 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary. Stir until fragrant, then add 1 28-oz can of peeled plum tomatoes (cut the tomatoes before hand), 1/4 cup dry white wine, 3 large pinches of chili flakes.
Return cauliflower to pot and baste with tomato liquid. Simmer for 5 minutes until the tomato mixture is thickened, then cover and place in oven and roast for 30-45 minutes, depending on your preferred mushy level (I did 45 minutes for peak softness). Every 10 minutes, baste the cauliflower with the tomato liquid.
In the meantime, cook 1 cup of beluga lentils in a separate pot (rinse them, cover with 2 cups of water, bring to boil until water is at surface, then cover and simmer on low until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes). Sauté three sliced onions (pearl onions are fun, too) in olive oil until golden brown.
When the cauliflower is ready, mix the lentils and onions with the tomato sauce and serve.
Do you remember Fatty Crab in its hey day? Now Zak Pelaccio is cooking in Hudson, NY at Fish + Game (been there too, but very different), but back in the day, man that food was good.
At Fatty Crab he had this insane nasi lemak -- coconut rice, chicken curry, slow poached egg, spicy pickles, deep-fried shallots, dried anchovies, various sambals. It remains one of the best restaurant dishes I've ever tasted. So much texture and funk and heat. Salty, sour, sweet, smooth, spiky. It was all there, a riot of bright, alpha flavors somehow sharing the stage in this dish.
This is a bit of my homage... a petite chamber orchestra compared to Pelaccio's carnival. The depth comes from caramelized shallots, tucked in the sticky and sweet purple rice. Add a poached egg and a dash of salt, and you have a slippery savory little bite. Could it use some pickles, sambals, dried fish, fried garlic slices, etc? Yes, indeed. This is just a start.
Caramelize shallots by sautéing with olive oil and salt on low for 30 minutes (I had them from another recipe so it wasn't so bad). Make sticky purple rice according to instructions (The one I used was about 75% white rice that the purple rice stained. Best to stick with your rice's instructions since rice ratios may change).
Lay collard green leaves in the bottom of a poach pod. Mix shallots with rice and add to the bottom of the pod. Crack an egg into a shallow bowl, then add to top of poach pod. Gently place poach pod into a small pot of boiling water, making sure that water doesn't reach the top of the poach pod. If your poach pod is slanted because of uneven weight distribution, prop it up with a random kitchen utensil. I used a spoon. Cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Remove pouch from poach pod, sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.
It was the 5pm question. What do I have in the fridge -- and how do I want to make it? My target was a 2-lb bag of haricots verts from Costco (yes, I am a New Yorker with a Costco membership. I am blessed).
Typically I'd do a Chinese stir-fry. You know the one: blistered yet still green, its divots filled with pockets of reduced hoisin.
But then -- these are French beans. Haricots verts. They seemed to call for a Gallic interpretation: a green beans almondine, butter.
But that's really not me and so I compromised with this hoisin beurre blanc. A beurre blanc is basically a warm vinaigrette, made with butter instead of oil. Here, I used rice vinegar rather than the classic white wine vinegar, which is softer than its more piercing cousin.
The result? Well, there's a reason that restaurants add butter to everything. The butter flavor was imperceptible, and yet you knew something was there. A body, a base. I made one pound of haricots verts this way, and you better believe that I'm doing the same with the rest of that bag.
Wash and trim 1 lb of haricots verts. String beans (or Chinese long beans) are fine in this case). Add to wok with 1/2 cup of chicken broth and steam, semi-covered, for 5 minutes until broth has evaporated. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, and 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar. Sautee until sauce is reduced and string beans are tender, about 5 minutes. Top with toasted sesame seeds.
One of the easiest ways to annoy D is to use a describe a body part with a medical word rather than the colloquial (and crasser word). For instance, once I said “pubic mound” with a totally straight face and he just lost it.
Cruciferous isn’t very colloquial and might sound a bit antiseptic. But I like it because it's inclusive and illuminating, like learning that Ira Glass is cousins with Philip Glass... or Amy Bloom is cousins with Harold Bloom. All of sudden, you have a deeper understanding.
What's a cruciferous vegetable? You have the sexy superstars: kale and brussels sprouts. The hall-of-famers: broccoli and cauliflower. The up-and-comers: collard greens and kohlrabi. And the uncoolest of the bunch: cabbage.
But knowing that they’re all part of the same family helps you realize that wallflower cabbage is not that different from its movie star siblings.
As Mark Twain wrote in Pudd’nhead Wilson, “cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education”.
RECIPE: This is really nothing special... just a super-hot pan, safflower oil (or some other high-smoke-point oil) and cabbage. You can choose to simply halve the cabbage and cook it in butter like this Bon Appetit recipe. I added feta for two reasons. 1) A nod to iceberg and bleu cheese dressing, and 2) sulfurous is mellowed by creaminess... like hollandaise on eggs.
Other cruciferous vegetable recipes:
At The Bazaar by José Andrés, you can get all sorts of food somersaults. I love me some culinary acrobatics, but for home, I prefer something a little more down-to-earth.
This came in an endive boat, but if you don't want to feel like you're at a cocktail party, just chop up the endives. It's sweet, bitter, creamy and a little piquant, depending on how many scallions you use.
RECIPE: Slice four endives into 1/2 inch rings and place in large mixing bowl. Separate leaves. Supreme two oranges (or tangerines for a punchier fragrance) and toss with endives. Chop 1-2 scallions and add to bowl. Make a vinaigrette with olive oil, rice vinegar, the excess juice from the oranges' core and peel, and a dash of mustard. Toss with salad then add toasted sliced almonds and feta cheese, to taste.
Susur Lee makes this insane slaw that's often said to have 19 ingredients. It actually has over 30, if you count all the components that make the components.
In my book, that makes this salad true restaurant food. Even though there's barely any cooking (as defined by applying heat to comestibles), there's a whole lot of prep. An impressive amount, if you eat it while dining out. A masochistic amount of prep, if you're dining in.
And yet. I had this dish more than five years ago at the now-shuttered Shang*, and I'm still thinking about it. It's a chaotic mix of flavors and textures, more cacophonous Asian night market than Brooklyn farmer's market. It's Asian without relying on easy shorthands of soy and sesame.
I make a salad almost everyday, and was cursing the fact that I spent so much time on this. But the truth is: you can taste the difference.
Here's the full recipe, if you're jonesin' for a challenge. My version is way abbreviated, definitely inferior, but a delicious addition to your dinner table.
Quick Pickled Onions: Using a mandoline, slice two red onions. Add to bowl and add one heaping tablespoon of salt and one teaspoon of sugar. Cover with vinegar and let rest for at least one hour in the refrigerator.
Salad: Get slicing. The upside is that you'll get to practice all your knife skills. The key here is to choose veggies of varying bite and juiciness. Cut for visual and mouthfeel contrast. I used: bean sprouts, snow peas, jicima, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, scallions, mint and basil. Other ideas: raw beets, napa cabbage, radish, chayote.
Crispies: Slice and deep-fry shallots, garlic, and lemongrass. Drain on paper towels. Toast peanuts and sesame seeds.
Dressing: Mix pickled ginger, fish sauce, rice vinegar, a little bit of the oil from the crispies, and a little bit of the pickling juice from the onions.
Now, mix everything together, making sure to add that crispies at the last moment so they stay...crunchy.
* Shang is actually featured in BAD TASTE. The fictitious restaurant Panh Ho is a cross between Shang and SHO Shaun Hergatt (both shuttered, I'm afraid).
Mushrooms used to be a hard sell. It's hard to recall exactly why. Maybe it was their styrofoam pop. Their non-taste. The earthiness. The fact that they're fungi? And then mushrooms got exoticized. In my world, that started with the silky umbrella-like straw mushroom. The meaty portabello. The savory shiitake. As I got older and the food landscaped changed, then came morels, sponges for butter and cream, and maitake, coral reefs of crunch and soft, give and take.
Mushrooms got sexier, and I got more fanatical. One of my favorite dishes is a mushroom melange -- some mix of all of the mushrooms above and perhaps some enoki, trumpet, oyster, lobster, chanterelle.
But I'm a bit disgusted to read that. Snobby, right? The equivalent of a bland designer dress, all label and no style.
This dish goes out to the white button mushroom. I cooked them in the slowcooker to concentrate the mushroom flavor (no sear to distract) and to create mushroom consomme-type thing. Just don't call it normcore.
RECIPE: Wash and trim 2lbs of white button mushrooms. Leave them whole. Add to slow cooker with 2 diced onions or shallots, 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, and a glug of white wine (3 tablespoons-ish). Slow cook on low for 4 hours. Before serving, add a knob of butter and parsley.
I won't make this a healthy eating thing. They're baked! They've been lightened with panko, not bread crumbs or flour! That doesn't really tell you how delicious they are. There are few foods I love more than deep-fried falafel on a plate of cold mezze, but when you're in the mood for something different, there's this.
With baking, you'll get a cookie-like texture similar to a French sablé, not the crackling outside and supple inside of a fried falafel. Plus, panko takes out the guesswork of lightness. A falafel lives and dies by its lightness. Too much flour or breadcrumbs, and the thing turns into a matzoh ball (which is fine, but not what you're doing here).
Bonus brightness comes from lemon and sumac. Who knew that falafel tasted good a little a sour?
RECIPE (adapted from how sweet it is): Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor, grind 2 cans of rinsed chickpeas, 6 garlic cloves, 4 scallions, 1 egg, the juice of lemon, 2/3 cup of soft herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill, mint), 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of aleppo pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of sumac. Process until you have a 50/50 mix of chickpea chunks and a hummus-like mixture. Add 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of panko crumbs, enough to get the dough to cling to itself. Form into patties and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until golden.
For the raita, slice and salt cucumbers and fennel. Drain. Add yogurt, salt, pepper, and olive oil. You can add cumin and red pepper flakes, but I prefer to keep the raita pure when paired against something so aromatic.
The other night, I felt conned into a dish. It was the type of service where everything is "amazing". Every order is a "wonderful choice." Words stop meaning anything.
I prefer the truth and I think that's always the best if you want the customer leaving happy. (The salesperson who tells the woman that a skirt looks fabulous when in fact it hits her in all the wrong spots is doing no one any favors.)
So anyway, the dish. It was squash stems. I'm usually into root-to-bud eating. I eat broccoli stalks and kabocha skin and celery leaves. But these stems were stringy and quite tough. And not tough in a hardy green sort of way (I dare to eat kale even when it's not massaged). It was just more a chew toy than actual sustenance.
So the next day I found these squash blossoms at the farmer's market. Exceptionally edible, always tender, perfect capsules for some other delicious filling. This time, I filled them with seasoned tofu, aerated and firmed by whipped egg whites. I am contemplating filling the blossoms with something heartier, like a meat mixture. Or maybe a tautological thing, a zucchini mousse with the stem very very finely chopped so you can actually eat it.
RECIPE: In a blender, whiz up egg whites from 3 eggs for 2 minutes. Add a package of lite tofu, salt, and whip until mixed and you are content with the saltiness. I like the mild taste of tofu, but you could do it up maybe with liquid aminos to get more of a cheese taste. Stuff into cleaned zucchini blossoms. Add 1/4 cup of water to a large wok and bring to a simmer. Add blossoms and steam, covered, for about 7 minutes, until the tofu mixture puffs up and solidifies. Grind pepper to your liking.
Is it just me, but did the rise of kale come really quickly? Not too long ago, I thought of kale as a difficult vegetable, an ornamental and sturdy plant that had to be stewed for hours. And who wants to eat gray-green sulfurous greens? Now of course, people eat kale not only on its own, but also as crackers, salads, pesto. Kale is the "green" in "green juice", the counterweight to the equally beloved bacon.
And now one of the most intimidating features of kale -- the stiff, structured ruffles -- are now a selling point.
I like to make a creamy sauce that catches inside all the nooks and crannies. Tofu adds body and umami, without the negating effect cream tends to add to salad. Recently at Thistle Hill Tavern, I had buffalo cauliflower and kale salad with slaw dressing. This is my middle ground.
RECIPE: Wash and dice kale into bite-size pieces. Melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter and add to blender. Add one block of tofu, 2 teaspoons of Frank's hot sauce, and a pinch of salt. Blend into dressing mix with kale salad.
Summer in NYC is not normal, both in the "regular" and "consistent" sense of the word, and in also in the "standard" and "expected" sense of the word.
You might spend a day sunning dreamily in Prospect Park, then in a disturbingly balmy and fragrant subway platform. You might spend two days on the beach, then five days in a freezing office.
Many New Yorkers leave the city on the weekends, true. And sometimes the city can feel pleasantly sparse. Until you hit all the summer tourists.
This dish's ingredients say summer -- corn, basil, tomatoes. But the preparation says something else -- it's deep and charred and moody. It's NYC in the summer.
RECIPE: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Mandolin one red onion. Slice kernels from one ear of corn. Drop in two handfuls of grape tomatoes. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast for 40 minutes, until tomatoes burst and the veggies char. I use this stoneware tray that retains heat.
Take out of the oven and put in bowl. Add pesto and chopped parsley. Serves 1 as the main attraction, 2 as a side.
Anything that requires wrapping is not an everyday food. Growing up, we only made "shambosh", a curry-beef samosa, on holidays. Grandma's yearly zongzi-making is reason enough to visit. From dumplings to spring rolls, tamales to tortellini, wrapped things are the stuff of special occasions.
But wrapped foods are a warm, loving gesture. Dim sum, after all, means "touches the heart." But with the right recipe, you can get the same effect ...without taking an entire day to get there.
This dish is simple, savory, and clean. Stuffed cabbage is another homey Grandma thing, but here the inside is simplified and purified.
I think in some cases, it's noble and grand to sacrifice your time and labor to feed someone. And in other cases, I think it's better to take it easy on the cooking so you can spend that time with that someone.
RECIPE: Separate 10 leaves from a small cabbage. The cabbage must be small because the leaves are more supple and the leaves fit the scallops better. Simmer them in a pot with 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Cook until they're translucent and pliant, like a swath of thick cloth.
Chop chorizo and add to one cabbage leaf, along with scallop. Fold the sides first, then the top, then bottom part, where the leaf met the base. Lay into a pan. When you've wrapped all your scallops, add the broth you used for the scallops. Cover and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
Season with sea salt and paprika.
When did you stop eating alfredo sauce? Maybe when you stopped eating mayo. Or started gutting your bagel before putting on your cream cheese.
Alfredo sauce seems like a vestige of a white bread, white sauce time. The last time I had pasta with alfredo sauce was at the Rainforest Cafe some 20 years ago. It came out over-sauced and semi-congealed, and since then alfredo has never been a must-order for me.
But somehow the memory has stuck. I eat shirataki noodles, but they're quite literally nothing. They have no calories, no nutritional value. All sensation and no sustenance.
Enter Alfredo. The sauce here is laughably dietetic compared to what alfredo sauce really is. But I think you'll find it's plenty creamy. The shirataki noodles just need to be caressed, not clobbered.
So the sauce is -- and I'm bracing myself for some alfredo purist backlash -- a blend of cream cheese and fat-free cream cheese. I mean, it's good. Slightly tangy, lusciously thick, and mercifully light in calories.
Mix it with some sauteed mushrooms and you have a dish that's an umami powerhouse. Enough to make you an alfredo eater again.
Roasted cruciferous doesn't need much. Perhaps some tahini a la Maoz. Or with bacon a la every restaurant. Anchovies are also welcome.
But after an especially satisfying dinner of roasted cauliflower, I craved a reprise. Here the broccoli gets a breakfast treatment with a soft poached egg, a sourdough English muffin, and a vegan hollandaise.
I roasted the broccoli while I heated the water for the eggs. Then I whizzed up the hollandaise, a mix of silken tofu, turmeric, olive oil, cayenne, and liquid aminos (for the umami oomph). Then the English muffin went into the toaster while I poached the eggs. When it comes to breakfast, I seek a compactness of movement.
The slippery egg and hollandaise slips into the dry and deliciously burnt florets. It's a lascivious way to cook the otherwise staid broccoli. But really, it had it coming.
Never mind the ubiquity of beet and goat cheese salads. Beets are still regarded warily. Like many food fears, this is likely an issue of 1) history, and 2) texture. Beets can take a long time to cook, and they make a literal bloody mess, so maybe...Read More
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This isn't a low-carb thing. I mean, it is, but that's not why I made it. This is for the people who always order roasted brussels sprouts. Who stuff their Maoz with fried broccoli and cauliflower. For the people who get excited about a big, juicy...Read More